About Me

My photo
If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

21st Century Girl Scouts-- And no, Planned Parenthood is not involved!

It isn't easy leading Girl Scouts in the 21st century. Sure, we now have spreadsheets that tally dues and badge requirements, not to mention the glories of the Internet. It's still difficult, just the same.

I am an old Girl Scout, as well as a former Camp Fire Girl. Notice that is Camp Fire GIRL, and not just a member of Camp Fire, the modern version. 

The Girl Scout program of the 1960s and early 70s was solid, no-nonsense scouting. The promise hadn't changed much since 1912. The uniforms were pretty standard, with the Junior level outfit created in the 1930s. Everybody in the troop wore the same thing, and there was no deviation. The badges were changed now and then, but the basic badges and their requirements were spelled out in clear, concise language.  

I left Cadettes in high school because frankly, I outgrew it. Explorers, a coed program run by the Boy Scouts of America, was where I next hung my membership hat. It had better camping, boys, job skills to learn, boys, better awards and boys. Did I mention the two Explorer posts to which I belonged had boys? 

One post was sponsored by a major metropolitan newspaper (but not advised by Clark Kent, sadly). What I learned there dove-tailed nicely with my Journalism, Print Shop and Computer Programming (Fortran IV) classes at school. I had my photo in an ad the post designed, showing us using various tools. I took the L to the Loop and back to attend meetings. These meetings often included lunch and snacks purchased by our sponsoring organization.

The other post was sponsored by a Catholic parish, and was supposed to be related to law enforcement, even had a cop as the advisor (Yes, advisor with an o). In truth, we did very little police activity. We did do some coed camping. It was the 70s. We threw parties, dated the boys, and didn't do much else. My parents wanted me in that post because it was parish sponsored and close to home, as a condition of being in the other. Let me tell you, the newspaper post was far safer, parish sponsorship of the other or not. 

Girl Scouting popped up again with my eldest, who didn't like the program of the 1980s and 90s. Who could blame her? 

Girl Scouts had gone eco and touchy-feely. The promise and laws had been rewritten to sound more akin to cult dogma than Girl Scouts. "I will do my best: to be honest, 
to be fair, to help where I am needed,
to be cheerful, to be friendly and considerate, to be a sister to every Girl Scout, to respect authority, to use resources wisely, to protect and improve the world around me, to show respect for myself and others through my words and actions." Feeeeelings, woah, woah woah, feeeeeeeelings...

Oh, um, yes, the uniforms had pieces, not standardization. The brag was that the uniform pieces had been created by top designers. It was...OK. It was not what girls were wearing then, but the Intermediate/ Junior uniform of my era wasn't, either. They even changed the Girl Scout pin, worn by all invested Girl Scouts and leaders. 

Between the touchy-feely atmosphere, and the uniforms, it just didn't work for my Eldest. I let her leave after a year of Brownies. 

Flash-forward to 2004, and Belle was asking about something called Daisies. Seems Girl Scouts USA had scooped up all the Kindergarten girls into troops to have something to do. It involved handbooks that required no reading. The girls earned petals. They needed a leader. Guess who? It seemed GSUSA calmed down a bit, changed the promise and law (again), and offered better training. The "real" pin was back as an option. OK. I was in. 

By the time Baby was ready for Daisies, there were no Daisies to be had at her school. Everybody had other plans. That was OK though, because Belle was in Brownies, and I was the leader, as the Eldest flaked out on yet something else, being the Brownie leader. Baby could read in Kindergarten, so the other leader and I just registered her as a Brownie.  

Girl Scouts USA has undergone some significant changes again. We now have a curriculum; not handbooks, but a curriculum, just like school. We thought we were getting neat-o new handbooks, the Girl's Guide to Scouting, with all the badges on handy-dandy sheets in a binder with a magnetic clasp. 

Instead, we got some of the badges in the binder, but not all of the badges. Those are in activity packs, to correspond to Journeys. JOURNEYS! ARG! They are touchy-feely and allegedly written to how girls speak current idiomatic English. National didn't consult leaders. Once again, they consulted alleged experts. Educators. 

Will I agree that Girl Scouts tends to be led on the national level by those with a more liberal agenda? Yes. Most leaders do not like it. 

I saw it the other day on Facebook. It seems the First Lady involved herself in Girl Scouts and fitness, even though her daughters aren't members. http://blog.girlscouts.org/2011/09/help-first-lady-michelle-obama-and.html The comments were fast and furious on Facebook, and they weren't happy. The woman in charge of the GSA Facebook page seemed puzzled at that. 

Nobody I know is thrilled with the Journeys. Journey mean buying extra books, extra badge pages, and extra work. They are too structured, too much like school, without a lot of requirement to actually learn skills. I've heard "dumbed down" in some circles, but to me, more like launching pads, add your own material as necessary (and it is necessary). Our troop was not thrilled to open the pretty new Cadette books and find that a whole different packet had to be purchased just to complete the Babysitter badge. 

Then there is the big pro-life controversy, which begs the question: Is it OK to lie about an organization simply because you think it presents itself as too liberal? 

That's the circumstances of the debate that rages in pro-life circles, Catholic and otherwise. I can tell you now that GSUSA has NO affiliation with Planned Parenthood, no matter who says so. The National Catholic Council for Girl Scouts and Camp Fire (NCCGSCF) has repeatedly stated that sex ed isn't taught without parental permission period, that there are no Girl Scout leaders sneaking girls off to obtain birth control or abortions, yada, yada, yada. 

Conspiracy theorists don't want to hear it. They keep painting GSUSA as a bunch of radical feminists out to make girls promiscuous, homosexual and then drag them into abortion clinics.  These theorists, who claim inside knowledge, have yet to explain to me how this lesbian sex in which all Girl Scouts and their leaders are allegedly engaged leads to pregnancy.

What are the alternatives to Girl Scouts in the US? Well, there's American Heritage Girls. It's a good group, but it isn't Girl Scouts, and again, there's the ministry factor, the Christian basis, leaving out other religions. There's Camp Fire; good, but again, not Girl Scouts. There is a council in the area. However, Camp Fire now has a curriculum, too, more for afterschool under the guidance of a teacher or aide, and it's coed, even the smallest Little Star (no more Bluebirds). They do offer camping. Camp Tialaka is no longer there, they have a couple resident camps. 

It's been suggested by various people that Little Flowers, Sunbeams, Missionettes AKA Girls Ministries, Beehives and Mia Maids might be an alternative. These are organizations specific to Catholicism, the Salvation Army (which is pro-choice BTW), various Protestant denominations but mostly Assembly of God, and the LDS (Mormon) church. Not everybody is welcome in every group. I have never seen life skills or camping skills taught in Little Flowers; virtues, etiquette, doctrine, yes, but not the other stuff. Rainbow Girls? Rainbow Girls is also more like a sorority, in that a girl can apply, but doesn't necessarily mean she'll get accepted. It's an affiliate of the Masons, though I'm told having a male family member who is a Mason is no longer necessary. 

I suppose we could do the 21st century thing and get a program or class for each thing the girls want to learn. But the camping? The sisterhood? The combined skills? At least the uniforms for girls from Cadettes through Ambassadors are once again standardized, even modern: Khaki "docker style" trousers or skirts, white polos, khaki vest of sash- if they choose to wear uniforms. For now, we'll stick with Girl Scouts. 

There's always Venturing and Exploring, when they turn 14, where I fully intend to be a leader of some sort. I still remember those days, and teen hormones merit some kind of watch. 

Hey! I bet that makes me eligible to attend Wood Badge! Finally! Can't wait!

NOTE: Since I wrote this, the Salvation Army has stated for the record that they are pro-life, but will not turn away women who have had abortions. I'm good with that. :-) Go check out the Salvation Army site if you want more information. I have also emailed my local archdiocese office on Scouting, and received an email reply from the scouting chaplain. He assured me that, against the opinion of the naysayers, Catholic girls will not be considered in the state of mortal sin for being Girl Scouts; quite the contrary. He emphasized the religious medals and books Catholic Girl Scouts can earn. He also repeated that Girl Scouts has no affiliation with Planned Parenthood, does NOT give money to organizations on the national level, and that troops largely form their own program. I would suggest that those who have problems with scouting in a religious context contact their church leadership, and that every Catholic who bad-mouths Girl Scouts contacts their local scouting chaplain for more counsel. 

No comments: